An ePIFanyNow.org Story

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By Sarah Spohn It’s 5:50 a.m., Bernice’s alarm clock goes off. Time to get up. She rises, gets dressed, does her makeup and hops into the car. She drives to school, blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival on the way to Okemos High School. While her taste in music isn’t that of a typical teenage girl’s playlist, neither is 16-year-old Bernice Gajda’s community advocate role. Call her an old soul; she’ll admit she went through an 80s phase — side ponytail, leg warmers and all — despite being born in the late 90s. Declaring the rough time of ‘finding herself’ during middle school, Gajda is proud of who she has become, and much of that is thanks to inspirational figures in her life. “It was rough, and teachers are what got me through it,” Bernice said of middle school. “I’ve had some very inspirational teachers in my life who have completely persuaded me, and I feel a very strong passion when I do teach, like to my class.” Also influenced by her mother and grandmother, she’s never felt the need to hide her opinion or lower her voice as a woman. Last year, she and her friends started a feminism club at Okemos High School. “The basic goals of the club are to promote gender equality throughout the school, not just in men versus women, but in people who identify with other genders on the spectrum or those who don’t identify with a gender at all,” Gajda said. The club has about 20 members and meets bi-weekly. Despite the seriousness and sometimes dark side of the controversial topics discussed within the club, Gajda is quick to show a welcoming, friendly demeanor as well as her creative side at meetings. “We make cinnamon rolls, not gender roles, for every meeting,” she said. “It’s just a place where people can have important conversations about gender equality in our society and also a place where people can just be emotional and be with other people — have good moral support.” While being an outspoken advocate, Gajda also enjoys art, English, journalism and yoga. In ninth grade, she won an award for her photography portfolio in the Lansing Art Gallery competition. Currently in Advanced Placement (AP) art, she enjoys different mediums, including creating portraits of women. After high school, this motivated young lady plans on double majoring in English and art at MSU. In the meantime, she’s happy to be a friend and invite her peers to come together, despite their backgrounds. “One cool thing about the club is that it pulls women and girls from all walks of life from the high school and all different kinds of people all united on this central theme of togetherness and equality,” she said. In the future, Gajda aspires to be a middle school teacher, and further advocate for equality in her community. For more information on ePIFanyNow™ visit epifanynow.org and join the group Sunday, May 1, 2016 for the next ePIFanyNow™ party.
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